For me, the path that led to the Rite of Passage movie project began about the same time I decided to self publish. When I thought about what type of books I wanted to write, alternate history was near the top of the list. It irked me that every imagined scenario by current writers had Africans as slaves, with the notable exception of Steve Barnes Lion’s Blood and Zulu Heart (yay Steve!). I also wondered why there were no books based on African American heroes, or books that made a link between Africa and America fantastic fiction. Let me rephrase that to book that I knew of, because if the last five years have taught me anything, it’s that whatever I’m thinking of someone has either done it or is in the process of doing it.
Now while I jumped into Sword and Soul with both feet, I hesitated with historical fiction. I had some concerns about how my stories would be interpreted so I set it on the back burner. But the ideas kept pestering me as ideas do until I decided to write a short story to test the waters.
And that’s how the story Rite of Passage came to be. The original version had a male main character, but the story was essentially the same. The ball for the film began rolling when Balogun Ojedate read the story. Up to that point Balogun and I had only discussed Sword and Soul, but when he read Rite of Passage I learned Balogun’s true muse. He is an admirer or Harriet Tubman and was working on the Chronicles of Harriet Tubman. He made the brilliant suggestion to make the main character a woman and he expanded on the premise to include not only Dorothy but other gifted folks with different mentors, all with the same purpose; to protect those from the Motherland.
Balogun then revealed another aspect of his talented persona, his love of film and his directorial and fight choreography skills. He suggested, no insisted we develop Rite of Passage into a film project. I was skeptical; I always wanted to see my works developed into film but I saw this as something happening well down the road. But I came around. We decided to do a short film; Rite of Passage: Initiation as a way to raise money for the film. Balogun gathered his talented friends and with the addition of my son on one of the cameras and my daughter snapping stills we made our short film. Our first attempt at raising funds didn’t go well, but we continued to press on. We were determined to make Rite of Passage a movie.
Then fortune smiled on us. Toward the end of last year we contacted Lisa Yasek, Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies, School of Literature, Media, and Communication at Georgia Institute of Technology (whew!) about doing a State of Black Science Fiction presentation for February 2013. We did a State of Black Science Fiction presentation at Georgia Tech in February 2012 that was well received, so Lisa was more that happy to oblige. We decided we would do a Black Science Fiction Film Festival and include Rite of Passage with other excellent black speculative fiction shorts. The event was a success; all the creators of the film appeared resulting in a lively discussion with the over 100 attendees. Flush from that success, Balogun asked Lisa if she knew any students interested in working with us on the film. She did us one better; she told us that Georgia Tech would help us create this film.
I think you can see why I feel Rite of Passage is more than just a movie. It’s a dream destined to come true. It’s an opportunity to create something unique to our history and imagination. It’s a chance for us to make something the way we feel it should be done. This is not a multi-million dollar project. We have the support of Georgia Tech, but we still need to raise funds for costumes, on site shoots and other costs. There are some that would rather wait until Hollywood finally gets around to making a movie like this, that way it will be done ‘right.’ To that I say, Hollywood had to start somewhere. And I’m damn tired of waiting.
So I hope you join us on this journey. With your help this will be the first of a series of Rite of Passages films. There are many more stories to tell, but they depend on the completion and execution of the first. I’m ready to do this. I hope you are too.
Here’s the link to the Rite of Passage website: http://www.riteofpassagethemovie.com/. You’ll find a link to our Indiegogo fundraiser there as well.